I have to confess, I don’t watch much anime. I’ve probably watched less than a dozen anime series in my life, fewer of them to completion. The only one I have ever reviewed is Japan Sinks 2020, a series so hilariously terrible that it turned drama into comedy gold. I ended up loving it, of course, but for all the wrong reasons.
Given my poor history with the medium, it is with great pleasure that I’m writing about an anime I actually enjoy on its own terms: Spy Family, often stylized as SPYxFAMILY.
Full disclosure: I have only watched the first 16 episodes (those available on Netflix so far) and have not read the manga, which is well ahead of the series. So if you are up to date with the manga, my views here are incomplete.
Spy Family is the new hit anime produced by Wit Studio and CloverWorks and based on the eponymous manga by Tatsuya Endo. The series is set against the backdrop of a conflict between the fictional countries of Ostania and Westalis, with both powers seemingly maintaining a fragile peace, but in fact on the brink of war with each other.
Aesthetically, it is unashamedly inspired by 1960s Cold War Europe, though not so much thematically, at least so far. You won’t hear much about the politics and ideology of each nation, which is probably warranted given the series is not aiming to be a thought-provoking historical drama, but rather a comedy. The conflict between Ostania and Westalis is instead an excuse to allow the characters to do their thing, and the characters are precisely where the series shines. The full focus is on its main cast: Twilight, Yor, and Anya.
Twilight (Tasogare in Japanese) is an intelligence agent working for the country of Westalis, and was sent to Ostania on a mission to stop Donovan Desmond, a warmongering politician, from starting a full-on war with its rival. In order to do so, he will have to approach him through Donovan’s son, by “acquiring” a family and enrolling a child in the prestigious school he’s studying at, Eden Academy.
Twilight is basically the ultimate JB: James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Jack Bauer all in one. He’s cold and calculating, and always focused on his mission. He’s not without humanity, though, and he will slowly learn to appreciate, and maybe even love, his made-up family, even if he keeps it to himself. He’s so agile he’s basically a superhero, though in this respect he’s beaten by Yor.
Yor is a professional assassin that works at City Hall during the day. She chooses to marry Twilight in order to not raise suspicions as to her real identity. She’s so fast and strong, she might as well have superpowers. Her skills as a mother and wife are terrible, and the show often delves into how terrible her cooking is (the series couldn’t be totally trope-free.) However, contrary to the common cliché of the confident femme fatale, she’s extremely self-conscious, soft-spoken, and polite (though this last point doesn’t translate well to English). When she’s not killing a target, that is.
So far, Yor is the least developed character of the main three, as we never see her perform an assassination after her introduction. This is a bit unfortunate, as she’s a bit of a background character compared to the other two, and, for now at least, she’s busier being a super-mum to Anya. Hopefully, this will change in later episodes.
Anya is Twilight’s adopted daughter. Like her adoptive parents, she has a secret she keeps from others that makes her extraordinary. In Anya’s case, this is her telepathic skills. She can read people’s (and even animals’) minds. This comes in handy multiple times throughout the show. Before I started watching the series, I thought she would be super-smart and grown up for her age, but she does behave like a child.
Anya is undoubtedly the highlight of the Spy family, and where much of the humor comes from. Due to her unique skills, she’s privy to her parents’ secrets, and she does her best to help them without revealing she’s a telepath. She’s quite clumsy, and despite her best efforts to befriend Donovan’s son and being able to read minds, she keeps failing.
There are other important characters in the show, and even future family members with their own unique powers, but for now the focus is on these three.
One thing I like about the series and that surprised me is that it is a straight-up comedy. When it comes to shounen anime, I tend to dislike some of its tropes, like the self-seriousness, battles that last several episodes, characters’ constant trying to outsmart each other, long expository dialogue about their plans and actions, character development through never-ending flashbacks, and so on. Spy Family does away with all of these and focuses instead on the everyday lives of the three main characters and their struggle to fulfill their mission, most often in humorous ways.
The animation is really high quality, with beautiful backgrounds and smooth movements, which is very welcome at a time when a lot of animation studios are cutting costs and we end up with a lot of cheap-looking productions. My only gripe is the 3D models that appear every now and then, usually cars. They’re really out of place, and I wish 2D animation didn’t rely on 3D models so often.
The intros and closing credits are a highlight, as is usual with anime, with the first intro being particularly good. I’m not as big a fan of the second one.
The Spy Family is worth a watch. My only regret is that I didn’t wait longer to start watching the show until there were more episodes available, as at the current rate of 26 twenty-minute episodes per year, you can watch a year’s worth of episodes in a few evenings. You’ll have to wait a few years before the show is binge-watchable.
Spy Family is available on Netflix.
Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
My email is ” firstname.lastname@example.org “, by all means contact me about anything!
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